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Narrative

I've never been very good at telling stories, says Júlio (fictitious name). I've never been a big deal to hear stories either, he continues. Maybe that's why it's like that when I try to tell my own story!, he says.

I've always had the feeling of having lived things different from others, says Ana (fictitious name). Every time I was asked to say what had happened, they said I was a liar or that this was not how things had happened, mention it.

I've read about autism and realised that the autobiographical memory in us is somewhat compromised, says Rafael (fictitious name). But it's still possible to tell my story, he says. Do you know how I know? Ask me rhetorically. Because I want to tell her, she concludes.

When I receive an adult person at the consultation I look at them, listen to them and try to feel and think about their story. She often brings an emergency. Sometimes a lot of emergencies. And many of them are intrinsically and intricately linked to their history. Or at least her part. Or also the way the same part of the story is being recounted, repeated by itself but also by others.

I think at these moments of what certain parts of our life story are and how we feel not to remember them. But that those who live with us seek to retell and lead us to fulfil that same space in our history. Therefore, our history is never truly our own. And as such, when I receive an adult person at the consultation, I also try to listen to how the Other was telling and recounting it.

Narrative therapy is a style of therapy that helps people become themselves. And embrace the being, become an expert of your own lives. In narrative therapy, there is an emphasis on the stories that the person develops and carries with him throughout his life.

And just as in the two testimonies of Julius and Ana it became evident, the way each one tells the story is different. As the person experiences events and interactions, he gives meaning to these experiences and they, in turn, influence the way we see ourselves and the world. And as such we can carry several stories at the same time, such as those related to our self-esteem, skills, relationships, work, etc.

I already told you that I am not lazy, Samuel shouted (fictitious name) at the consultation addressing the parents. You are always saying that I don't pay attention, but I listen perfectly to the horrible things they say about me, says Anabela (fictitious name) in the consultation with her mother. Do you think I don't know what people think of me? Asks Osvaldo (fictitious name) referring to what he has read on social networks. I know perfectly well that they think I'm a monster, a strange being, he concludes.

I once heard my teacher say as a little while in elementary school - A lie after repeated often becomes a truth. I can't remember in what situation she said it. Perhaps it was in a situation where some of us was explaining why we hadn't done our homework.

And it is curious that many of the people I follow say that they often do things they would not do in other conditions with the aim of feeling integrated. We're talking about social camouflage, it's true. But we're also talking about being something you're not. Something close to a lie, since they're not like that. And that in many of them leads them to question who they themselves are.

And after people knew my diagnosis they didn't stop repeating it, says Alberto (fictitious name). This is because of autism, that's due to autism, he says. There are times I wish I hadn't told them anything, he continues. They started asking me things because of autism instead of asking me, do you realise?, ask me. At home they say they're tired of me talking about autism, says Joana (fictitious name). In fact, what they say is that I'm now always justifying everything with autism, he says. I wish I could tell you that for twenty-two years I was something and someone that didn't make sense to me. And the fact that you have now known how to understand me I want to be able to say it, do you understand? Ask me. It's as if I had never known my real name until then and now they had revealed it, he concludes.

I'd like you to let me do things, shouts José (fictitious name) towards his parents. I'm not a child, he continues. I'm thirty-six years old. I want to be able to make mistakes, you know? Says crying. I want to be able to make mistakes, I want to be able to make mistakes, that's all! Repeat. I know I'm guilty of all this, says Manuel (fictitious name). I suck. My parents and family have suffered all this because of me, he continues. I don't know how to do anything well. I don't know how to do things like my brothers, he says. You only look at my faults, says Carlos (fictitious name) in the session addressing his wife. You only see my difficulties, like everyone else in my life, continues. Can't you see my abilities? asks him. Sometimes I don't reproach you, he says discouraged lowering his head. Sometimes even I can't see my skills, he says quietly. Throughout their lives, autistic people live a whole varied and painful set of traumatic experiences. Let situations be misunderstanding about the behaviours of others and these in relation to their own behaviours. The difficult experiences caused by immersion in extreme social and sensory situations. Bullying experiences during an extended period at school and then at work. Abuses, whether physical, sexual or psychological. The mistakes and lies due to having piously believed everything that most people were telling them. These and other situations are traumatic experiences, inscribed or not in a condition of post-traumatic stress. But as traumatic experiences themselves, the memory and narrative around them over time becomes biased, confusing. And as such, it is important to help the person retell these experiences of his, deconstruct some of the negative beliefs around certain issues. As well as leading yourself to not blaming and giving too much emphasis to a self-critical narrative.

The person is not the problem; the problem is the problem. This phrase by Epston in 1993 reveals the importance of focussing narrative on the problem rather than the person. It is not intended to relieve the person responsible for the process. Quite the contrary. When it is possible for the person to engage in the construction of his narrative is himself an active agent in the process of change and (re)construction of the Self.

It is understandable that the diagnosis of autism can be felt as overwhelming by everyone, whether parents, but also and especially themselves. However, it is important in addition to the very conceptualisation of the situation and the functioning profile of the person, to refocus the intervention not only in meeting what is pointed out as problems. Not least because by doing so, particularly as therapists, we will be validating the person's identity as a "problem". We do not deviate from what the needs are, whether of parents, school, colleagues, but especially of ourselves. Otherwise, we run the risk of returning to the person that the problem is her and that it is she who needs to change and that others are victims of her characteristics. Certainly, parents, schools, colleagues and others should not be left helpless. Especially in the case of parents and schools, it is essential that there can be specific work, directed to them and carried out together. However, we must refocus the intervention on the person.


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